By Lincoln DePradine
The one word a group of George Brown College (GBC) graduates should have left with, after attending their convocation ceremony Monday in Toronto, was “perseverance’’.
The word was repeatedly emphasized by the ceremony’s keynote speaker, Jamaican-born Chris Campbell. He told the graduating class from GBC’s Centre for Construction & Engineering Technology that “perseverance paid off’’ for them during their college studies, and urged them to continue on the same path.
“Don’t let adversity in your life determine your path forward. Persevere, persevere, persevere,’’ said Campbell. “Put in the work. Be conscientious in all that you do, then watch out for the positive results that will follow.’’
Campbell, who is a former GBC student, now is vice president of the Carpenters’ Union (Local 27).
He also is equity, diversity and inclusion representative of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario, and chair of the Toronto Community Benefits Network, a coalition of community organizations, trade unions and other groups that was founded in 2013 with a commitment to ensuring that “community members are accessing publicly funded jobs resulting from infrastructure construction contracts; and that hiring targets for diverse groups are met’’.
Campbell, reiterating the importance of perseverance, used his own life as an example, beginning with his humble upbringing in Jamaica and arriving in Toronto in 1987.
On immigrating to Canada, Campbell landed here with just CAN$20 in his pocket and slept “on the floor of a relative’s apartment’’ for some time.
But, he had a dream of a successful life in Canada, Campbell said, and, it motivated him to attend high school and later college night school while working at jobs such as custodian, dishwasher and factory hand.
“It wasn’t easy; yes, I was very busy,’’ Campbell admitted. “I had to work to provide my basic needs – a roof over my head, food on the table and clothes on my back. ‘’
Campbell, who has been awarded for mentoring young Black men and women to choose careers in building and construction, said as a new immigrant to Canada, he “realized pretty quickly that, in order for someone like myself to get ahead, I needed more education or training – just like you graduates here today,’’ said Campbell, in addressing the GBC ceremony.
The graduates ought to be “highly commended’’, Campbell said. However, as they venture into the new post-GBC phase of their lives, they should not “let adversity in your life determine your path forward’’, he added.
“You are going to have roadblocks along the way. There will be disappointments. You may have to detour or cut your loss along your career path. But, if you are passionate about it, never give up. Persevere,’’ said Campbell.
“It’s good to have friends, alumni of your age group, who are focused and will give you good advice. Also, reach out to people who have already walked the talk. I am talking about your professors, community leaders, experienced people, who are in the field in which you are planning to make your mark.’’
Campbell advised the new graduates, who received “some valuable tools’’ from GBC, to “go out there and live your dreams’’.
“Canada is a land of opportunity,’’ he said. stay focused on your goals and values.’’
Campbell was commended on his keynote speech by GBC chancellor Noella Milne and college president, Jamaican-Canadian Dr Gervan Fearon. Campbell also was the recipient of an honourary GBC Advanced Diploma in Building Renovation Technology.
Campbell’s remarks were “amazing and powerful’’, as well as “inspiring’’, Fearon said.
The college president, in comments directed at the graduates, invited them to remain in contact with GBC.
“There are so many ways that you can stay connected and stay in touch with George Brown College. We hope you will keep in touch with us, and we’ll be there for you as well,’’ Fearon promised.
“Your graduation day is the beginning of a bright, amazing future. You should all be so very, very proud of your accomplishments.’’